Rova Saxophone Quartet
After 16 years of bold experimentation, Rova has been credited with virtually reinventing the concept of the saxophone quartet. Rova aims at making a synthesis of composition and structured improvisation. The instrumentation of baritone, tenor, alto, and sopranino produces a richness of unusual charm. The voices can be placed in a filigree, in opposition to each other, or, in dense passages, they can run together or melt into each other in wide streams of sound.
Rova's collaborations with such significant creative musicians as Anthony Braxton, Alvin Curran, John Zorn, Steve Lacy, Terry Riley, Robin Holcomb, Butch Morris, Fred Frith, and Kronos Quartet have expanded the possibilities and contributed to the redefinition of 20th century music. It is in such a restless, expansive, but intensely focused musical partnership as Rova that the sounds of the 21st century are prefigured. The Rova Saxophone Quartet is an ensemble that creates a musical presence so immense that you can clearly hear the future.
In building toward this future, Rova draws on a spectrum of influences reaching from Charles Ives, Messiaen, Xanakis, Feldman, Penderecki, Varese, and Cage on one side; onto Coleman, Taylor, Braxton, Mitchell, Monk, or Lacy on the other. Yet Rova does not mistake musical openness for a raid through the cultural supermarket or for a provincial avant-garde pose. These influences, expressed indirectly, allow the group to give a clear contour to the complexity of their music.
In its earliest incarnation in the late 1970's, Rova Saxophone Quartet occupied an obscure little corner in the marginalized world of new and improvised music, challenging listeners to follow complex yet rewarding passages through the thicket of tangled improvisations. In the years of rehearsing, performing and touring since, Rova has developed from this pioneering experiment into leaders of a new school which might loosely be termed "collective improvisation," in which the seemingly conflicting imperatives of composition and improvisation are reconciled into an original and frequently breathtaking harmony. Indeed, Rova has established a musical tradition and set a movement going—gaining in forcefulness as well as in public acclaim, reputation and following.
The Rova Saxophone Quartet was founded in late 1977 by Jon Raskin, Larry Ochs, Andrew Voigt, and Bruce Ackley for the occasion of a special festival appearance at Mills College in Oakland, California. The tapes of the concert were so exciting that the quartet decided to produce the record Cinema Rovaté. Before the completion of the recording, Rova had been invited to perform at the Vancouver New Music Society in Canada and the 1979 Moers International Jazz Festival in West Germany. Responses such as these made it clear that the saxophone quartet could be much more than a novelty group, and Rova established an on-going commitment to work as a multi-reed ensemble.
In the last 16 years, Rova has created dozens of pieces for saxophone quartet involving an adept blending of notated composition and structured improvisation. They have presented their work in hundreds of concerts in the U.S. and Canada, and on over 20 European tours, including concerts in France, Great Britain, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia. In 1983, Rova became the first new music group from the United States to tour the USSR. Saxophone Diplomacy, a documentary video of the tour, has been aired on many PBS stations in the United States since its premier on KQED, San Francisco in 1983. Rova toured the USSR again in November 1989, releasing a CD from the tour on the New Albion label entitled, This Time We Are Both.
Since 1980, Rova has extended their musical interests to collaborative projects. Among their collaborators are The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, Kronos String Quartet, Terry Riley, John Zorn, Fred Frith and Henry Kaiser, Richard Teitelbaum and David Rosenbloom, Lawrence "Butch" Morris, Anthony Braxton, Alvin Curran, and the martial arts drum troupe San Francisco Taiko Dojo. Rova's not-for-profit incorporation in 1985 helped develop a funding base for its acclaimed annual Pre-Echoes Series, collaborative concerts in which many of the above mentioned artists appeared. The Russian avant-garde Ganelin Trio inaugurated the series in San Francisco in June 1986. The Series also provided a venue for the world premieres of works written especially for Rova by composers such as Henry Threadgill, Jack DeJohnette, John Carter, Robin Holcomb, and Chris Brown.
Founding Member Andrew Voigt left Rova in August 1988 and was replaced by Steve Adams, formerly with Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet in Boston.
As of January 1994, Rova will have released 18 recordings of original music on labels usch as Black Saint, Hat Art, Sound Aspects, and New Albion Records. Future recording plans include production of collaborative works as well as annual recordings of new Rova compositions.
The Rova Saxophone Quartet's website is located at http://www.rova.org/.
Steve Adams (born in 1952 in Rockville Centre, N.Y.). Steve's discography of over 30 works includes four releases with Boston's Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet and two albums as a leader for the 9 Winds label. He has performed with Anthony Braxton, Sam Rivers, Dave Holland, Donald Byrd, Jaki Byard and Ted Nugent and with many other jazz, rock, and classical dance and theater groups. He has composed for the California Shakespeare Festival's 1990 production of Twelfth Night and for the 1991 production of Midsummer Night's Dream, as well as for the Empire Brass Quintet and Marimolin, a violin/marimba duo. Steve is a graduate of the School of Contemporary Music in Boston, and has studied composition with Thomas Oboe Lee, Christopher Yavelov and Alan Crossman; saxophone with David Birkin; and Indian music with Peter Row and Steve Gorn. Steve was a finalist in the 1983 Massachusetts "You Gotta Have Arts" grant competition.
Larry Ochs (born 1949 in New York City). Larry has served as an advisor to the San Francisco Chamber Music Society and has received Meet the Composer grants from Chicago, Milwaukee, New York and California, as well as a commission award from the Meet the Composer/Reader's Digest Commissioning Program in 1989. In 1987, he was a featured composer at New Music America. In addition to his work with Rova, Larry is a member and composer of Room, a new music trio with electronics composer Chris Brown and percussionist William Winant (with 2 CD's on the labels Sound Aspects and Music & Arts) and a founding member of the Glenn Spearman Double Trio, whose first CD he produced for Black Saint Records in 1992. Also in 1992, he was commissioned by Antwerpen '93's year-long festival of the arts to compose a work for ten-piece ensemble. Larry has studied trumpet as well as saxophone. He also has an extensive background in musical production, having owned and operated Twelve Stars Studio in Northern California as well as having founded Metalanguage Records in 1978.
Bruce Ackley (born in 1948 in Detroit). A 1986 Bay Area Music award nominee for best saxophonist, Ackley has recorded with such noted musicians as John Zorn, Henry Kaiser, and Eugene Chadborne, and collaborated with trombone/electronics composer J.A. Deane on sound environments for the films of Bay Area film maker, David Machalak. He was a founding member of the Sound Clinic, an improvising wind trio, with trumpeter George Sams and saxophonist Lew Jordan, and participated in the founding of the Blue Dolphin, an artist-run alternative art space in San Francisco. He began playing saxophone in 1970, and formed his first trio that year in Detroit. As a disc jockey from 1973-75, Bruce presented jazz and new music programs on San Francisco's community sponsored station, KPOO.
Jon Raskin (born 1954 in Heppner, Oregon). As a founding member of the Blue Dolphin and the Farm, two alternative art spaces in San Francisco, Jon has composed for and collaborated extensively with theater and dance companies. Jon was a featured composer at New Music America in 1987, and has been the recipient of Meet the Composer grants in California and New York. Other grants include an NEA grant for the original composition of music for theater, and a commission award from the Reader's Digest/Meet the Composer Commissioning program. He has composed the score for Elizabeth Shere's film Just Another Weekend, and performed on the Anthony Braxton Quintet CD dedicated to Lennie Tristano. His musical training includes saxophone studies with Eddie Flenner, James Rotter, and John Handy; and composition studies with Dr. Barney Childs and Allaudin Mathieu. Notable stints with new music ensembles include one under the direction of John Adams at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and another under the direction of Dr. Childs at the University of Redlands School of Music.
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